Well Sir, 'tis granted, I said Dryden's Rhimes,
Were stoln, unequal, nay dull many times:
What foolish Patron, is there found of his,
So blindly partial, to deny me this?
But that his Plays, Embroider'd up and downe,
With Witt, and Learning, justly pleas'd the Towne,
In the same paper, I as freely owne:
Yet haveing this allow'd, the heavy Masse,
That stuffs up his loose Volumes must not passe:
For by that Rule, I might as well admit,
Crownes tedious Scenes, for Poetry, and Witt.
'Tis therefore not enough, when your false Sense
Hits the false Judgment of an Audience
Of Clapping-Fooles, assembling a vast Crowd
'Till the throng'd Play-House, crack with the dull Load;
Tho' ev'n that Tallent, merrits in some sort,
That can divert the Rabble and the Court:
Which blundring Settle, never cou'd attaine,
And puzling Otway, labours at in vaine.
But within due proportions, circumscribe
What e're you write; that with a flowing Tyde,
The Stile, may rise, yet in its rise forbeare,
With uselesse Words, t'oppresse the wearyed Eare:
Here be your Language lofty, there more light,
Your Rethorick, with your Poetry, unite:
For Elegance sake, sometimes alay the force
Of Epethets; 'twill soften the discourse;
A Jeast in Scorne, poynts out, and hits the thing,
More home, than the Morosest Satyrs Sting.
Shakespeare, and Johnson, did herein excell,
And might in this be Immitated well;
Whom refin'd Etheridge, Coppys not at all,
But is himself a Sheere Originall:
Nor that Slow Drudge, in swift Pindarique straines,
Flatman, who Cowley imitates with paines,
And rides a Jaded Muse, whipt with loose Raines.
When Lee, makes temp'rate Scipio, fret and Rave,
And Haniball, a whineing Am'rous Slave;
I laugh, and wish the hot-brain'd Fustian Foole,
In Busbys hands, to be well lasht at Schoole.
Of all our Moderne Witts, none seemes to me,
Once to have toucht upon true Comedy,
But hasty Shadwell, and slow Witcherley.
Shadwells unfinisht workes doe yet impart,
Great proofes of force of Nature, none of Art.
With just bold Stroakes, he dashes here and there,
Shewing great Mastery with little care;
And scornes to varnish his good touches o're,
To make the Fooles, and Women, praise 'em more.
But Witcherley, earnes hard, what e're he gaines,
He wants noe Judgment, nor he spares noe paines;
He frequently excells, and at the least,
Makes fewer faults, than any of the best.
Waller, by Nature for the Bayes design'd,
With force, and fire, and fancy unconfin'd,
In Panigericks does Excell Mankind:
He best can turne, enforce, and soften things,
To praise great Conqu'rours, or to flatter Kings.
For poynted Satyrs, I wou'd Buckhurst choose,
The best good Man, with the worst Natur'd Muse:
For Songs, and Verses, Mannerly Obscene,
That can stirr Nature up, by Springs unseene,
And without forceing blushes, warme the Queene:
Sidley, has that prevailing gentle Art,
That can with a resistlesse Charme impart,
The loosest wishes to the Chastest Heart,
Raise such a Conflict, kindle such a ffire
Betwixt declineing Virtue, and desire,
Till the poor Vanquisht Maid, dissolves away,
In Dreames all Night, in Sighs, and Teares, all Day.
Dryden, in vaine, try'd this nice way of Witt,
For he, to be a tearing Blade thought fit,
But when he wou'd be sharp, he still was blunt,
To friske his frollique fancy, hed cry Cunt;
Wou'd give the Ladyes, a dry Bawdy bob,
And thus he got the name of Poet Squab:
But to be just, twill to his praise be found,
His Excellencies, more than faults abound.
Nor dare I from his Sacred Temples teare,
That Lawrell, which he best deserves to weare.
But does not Dryden find ev'n Johnson dull?
Fletcher, and Beaumont, uncorrect, and full
Of Lewd lines as he calls em? Shakespeares Stile
Stiffe, and Affected? To his owne the while
Allowing all the justnesse that his Pride,
Soe Arrogantly, had to these denyd?
And may not I, have leave Impartially
To search, and Censure, Drydens workes, and try,
If those grosse faults, his Choyce Pen does Commit
Proceed from want of Judgment, or of Witt.
Of if his lumpish fancy does refuse,
Spirit, and grace to his loose slatterne Muse?
Five Hundred Verses, ev'ry Morning writ,
Proves you noe more a Poet, than a Witt.
Such scribling Authors, have beene seene before,
Mustapha, the English Princesse, Forty more,
Were things perhaps compos'd in Half an Houre.
To write what may securely stand the test
Of being well read over Thrice oat least
Compare each Phrase, examin ev'ry Line,
Weigh ev'ry word, and ev'ry thought refine;
Scorne all Applause the Vile Rout can bestow,
And be content to please those few, who know.
Canst thou be such a vaine mistaken thing
To wish thy Workes might make a Play-house ring,
With the unthinking Laughter, and poor praise
Of Fopps, and Ladys, factious for thy Plays?
Then send a cunning Friend to learne thy doome,
From the shrew'd Judges in the Drawing-Roome.
I've noe Ambition on that idle score,
But say with Betty Morice, heretofore
When a Court-Lady, call'd her Buckleys Whore,
I please one Man of Witt, am proud on't too,
Let all the Coxcombs, dance to bed to you.
Shou'd I be troubled when the Purblind Knight
Who squints more in his Judgment, than his sight,
Picks silly faults, and Censures what I write?
Or when the poor-fed Poets of the Towne
For Scrapps, and Coach roome cry my Verses downe?
I loath the Rabble, 'tis enough for me,
If Sidley, Shadwell, Shepherd, Witcherley,
Godolphin, Buttler, Buckhurst, Buckingham,
And some few more, whom I omit to name
Approve my Sense, I count their Censure Fame.
Top John Wilmot Poems